If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dozing off on a beach chair or in the sand while the waves of the ocean gently lap at the shore, you’ve probably noticed just how relaxing that sound of mother nature’s ebb and flow can be.
One new study is even suggesting that sounds which match up to our brain waves while we sleep can actually help to improve our quality of rest as well as our memory.
Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago looked at whether or not sounds played to the rhythm of brain waves (called “acoustic pulses) had any impact on people as they slept. Similar studies have already shown that such rhythmic sounds have beneficial effects on young adults’ sleep, but researchers wanted to test the impact on those over the age of 60, who are more likely to suffer from cognitive disorders.
The researches tracked 13 patients, testing their memories before and after they slept in a lab with gentle sounds, like the rush of a waterfall, playing in rhythmic sync with their brainwaves — they were also tracked for another night without any sound.
They found that when subjects slept with sound in the background, they not only slept better, but also remembered three times as much in a memory test the morning after. We’re going to need a copy of whatever album they were listening to, like, tonight.
“So it kind of suggests to us that the degree of sleep enhancement is related to the degree of memory improvement,” said study co-author Nelly Papalambros to CTV News Channel. “We know that deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, is critical for memory consolidation.”
More than just helping seniors be a little sharper for their day, researchers are optimistic that their findings could help develop treatments for people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive illnesses.
“We know that deep sleep changes as we age. It decreases pretty substantially… and it’s thought to play a part in the memory decline we see with age,” said Papalambros.
The next step is to do more tests over a longer period of time in order to see just how deeply linked sleep, sound waves and cognitive function are, and whether we can use the connection to improve our overall health. Because if there’s a way to get healthier and smarter in our sleep, we’re all going to want to take advantage of it.